Were this question to be thrown at an essentialist of Pauline Christianity, the answer would be a predictable rehearsal of all the attributes that distinguish Jesus Christ such as having no servants but still called Master; no degree but still called Teacher; no army but was still feared by kings; won no military battles but still conquered power and authority. And so on and so forth. These are some of the most interesting things said about Him. Added to the social message of the Gospels which conveyed the phenomenon called Christ, they make Christmas a truly wonderful reality.
Christmas has, therefore, got everything to do with it because Christmas is about Christ and Christ is about resolving the age old questions that haunted and are still haunting humanity. In other words, Christ is about leadership. Why was Jesus called a Master even when he had no servants, a teacher when he had no degree? Why did kings fear Him when he had no battalions or foot soldiers?
Xmas holidays offered a rare opportunity for the quietism required to reflect on these types of questions in the out-going year. It can be a deep experience especially with large dose of the pleasure of Michael Jackson’s videos, the music of the Idoma songster, the late Joe Akatu and Ada Atama, his poor but more potent successor in communal barometer, some of the timeless tracks from Fela and his boss, Hugh Masekela, (the South African), Manu Dibango, (the Makossa guy man from Cameroun), Christy Essien’s melodious Seun Rere and the top hits in disco music of the early 1980s.
In reviewing the year, Nigeria forced itself to my consciousness over and above personal worries. This time, it was the puzzle of Goodluck Jonathan that occupied all the space for thinking as far as leadership is concerned. What exactly is the problem with the Goodluck Jonathan leadership? Why is he dancing out of tune with what the drummers are communicating? Why is he getting many things wrong? Why does he make certain statements in public? And why would anyone who willfully came to dance in the arena of politics feel hurt when criticized? How come he makes enemies easily? Questions, questions and questions!
It is still a mystery to me that I am not a Goodluck foot soldier, for example. As a social and an ethnic minority like me, a fellow Christian and the first PhD holder to climb ultimate seat of power in Nigeria, I should be a Jonathan enthusiast. Internally, I feel the chord between him and me, especially class wise. Unfortunately, it has yet to click. Why?
I would not go as far as explaining this hiatus entirely in terms of cluelessness because cluelessness itself has to be explained. I, therefore, dismiss the theory of cluelessness and replace it with class denial thesis. That is to say that I explain Jonathan’s problems as resulting from social exclusion on account of his class and minority background from the grooming that makes one think and act like a philosopher king, Plato’s minimum requirement for leadership.
No radicalism permits any disagreement with Plato’s idea that those who should rule must be groomed for that. And his idea of the grooming process has no class boundaries although some people would say that the reflective process is a luxury for the poor person. But Plato makes eminent sense to me if we contemplate the import of taking decisions over and above the heads of millions of people, most of whom are in no position to even know, much less be able to question the actions of the powerful even in the most efficient democracies anywhere in the world. It is only a philosopher in the Plato sense who will be mindful of this import, not because s/he is a moralist but because there are consequences, for self and for the society in the event of mindless, ‘I don’t give a damn’ leadership. More importantly, leadership is not just about building roads, supplying water and all of that but about providing the banner of hope and serving as the ultimate beacon for society.
Every Nigerian leader since Independence has been formally and systematically groomed, be it Zik, Awo, Sardauna, Balewa, Ironsi, Gowon, Murtala, Obasanjo, Shagari, Buhari, IBB, Shonekan, Abacha, Abdulsalami and Yar’Adua. The immediate post independence leaders all went outside the country, interacted widely and benefited from discourses of self and the colonial experience. Every military officer automatically received orientation in state protocol and authority. Shonekan who was neither a politician nor a military man came from the private sector with its own sense of the social order and state. Yar’Adua was close to the politics of the palace apart from involvement in radical nationalism of student politics in the days when university education was more rounded. Jonathan is, therefore, the only exception. It was, therefore, a conspiracy to give him power for some others to rule from behind because they knew that, like most social and ethnic minorities, Jonathan’s socialization excluded the possibility of high office and state power.
Such a person needed to understudy power and become more adept in its use before he was given power or he ran the risk of achieving nothing with it. This is because state power is comparable to nothing else. It has its own unwritten rules, behaviour requirements, even style and communication which are what mystifies the state for the purposes for which it exists – monopoly of legitimate use of violence. Nobody learns some of these things in any schools except through leadership recruitment and grooming.
Jonathan had been groomed by nobody. Yes, he was Deputy Governor but most deputies serve under governors who keep them at a distance from the exercise of power. Alamiesyeseigha as a former air force person must certainly have leadership training but how close was Jonathan to him as deputy-governor? Then Jonathan became governor and before he internalized all that, he found himself as Vice-President, a spare tyre who, certainly, received no grooming in statecraft there. And then there was a ‘divine intervention’ and he became president.
You can be the most brilliant professor and still fail totally on this. I cannot forget the first day I entered the Presidential Lounge at Abuja as a ministerial aide. I went straight and sat where only ministers and ministers of State sat. Noticing the protocol absurdity unfolding from his own PA, Sule Lamido drew me close and started telling me the story of what Obasanjo told a Federal Permanent Secretary who went to sit on the chair with the flag behind it at a function somewhere else. Obasanjo told him he had better find another chair quickly before he was put on trial for treason. That story, he said, applied to me because “you are sitting in the wrong place”. So, he sent me on an errand which was like offering me a safe landing.
When I raised the point about the president not having had the advantage of having seriously under studied power with someone during the zoning debate, he said that was not a problem on the ground that power will empower Jonathan when he became the president. Of course, there were all the opportunists and desperadoes who pushed Jonathan based on favours received. It is shocking that someone who almost walked me out of his office in Abuja for saying that the more correct thing is for the zoning arrangement to prevail is one of those shouting loudest today, doing all sorts of night meetings, stringing alliances on how to get Jonathan out in 2015. Well, these sorts of men would succeed because the two most important developments that make manipulation to work are not available to Goodluck if things continue as they are now. But what I think is that all those who supported and egged Jonathan on have simply destroyed him because I do not see how he can master statecraft quickly, re-conceptualise the Nigerian crisis and go on to find his bearing in terms of doing anything that can be called an achievement before 2015 as to be able to win a re-election.
Looking back, the one question that must be pondered is whether Goodluck Jonathan wouldn’t have been better off if he remained the Vice-President in 2010, with some political understanding to be the consensus candidate in 2015, better prepared, greater stature and what have you? I understand the president was advised accordingly but some other people said there was no guarantee any other successor of Yar’Adua would not want to extend the North’s quota.
This is a serious though now only an academic question for the reason that Goodluck is already in the saddle. But there is no way the present crisis will not produce its own anti-thesis, leading to a synthesis which will be qualitatively different but not necessarily better than what exists. Whether the synthesis is better or not, it will be different from what exists and Goodluck Jonathan risks losing out so badly as to hate himself in the years he should be looking forward to an even more useful life in statesmanship after being president. That, I believe, is the wish of anyone who is already president at just the age of fifty something. Jonathan risks losing that privilege if he should be disgraced out of office in 2015. How can he avoid being disgraced out of office? Is it by magically performing and making it back by acclamation in 2015 or packing his bags and be ready to say a big thank you to Nigerians for the rare opportunity to serve as a president since 2011? Well, 2013 when he said we would see wonders is here. We eagerly await the wonders.